The Most Common Types of Wheelchairs to Consider Before Purchasing One

caregiver wheelchair

A well-fit wheelchair is beneficial for boosting the mobility and independence of the user. That’s why it is crucial to know the various kinds of wheelchairs available in the market. Let’s plunge into the main characteristics of each type so that you can choose the most suitable one for your needs.

Manual Wheelchairs

Standard Manual Wheelchairs

Standard manual wheelchairs are the most straightforward and cheapest type of wheelchairs. They are propelled by the user’s arms, either by pushing on the handrims or pushrims. These are light chairs that can be easily folded and transported in a car. A manual wheelchair is ideal for use indoors and for short outdoor strolls.

Another significant benefit of standard manual wheelchairs is that such a budget-friendly option is easy to maintain. However, they may not be ideal for people with weak upper body strength or those who need extra features for positioning or pressure relief.

Lightweight Manual Wheelchairs

Light manual wheelchairs are specifically developed for easier transport and better control. They are normally lighter, which makes it easier to pick up and move them to a car. This type comes with a weight of 15 to 30 pounds. These wheelchairs are usually constructed from high-strength lightweight materials such as aluminum or titanium.

The lightweight design allows for greater independence and increased mobility. However, this type of wheelchairs may not be as durable and stable as the heavier models available in the market.

Tilt-in-Space Manual Wheelchairs

Tilt-in-space manual wheelchairs boast extra positioning and pressure relief capability. They enable the user to adjust the seat and backrest separately to reduce pressure on certain parts of the body. This feature can be extremely handy for people with restricted mobility or for those who are prone to bedsores.

Tilt-in-space wheelchairs offer better position and stability, but they are also bulky and pricey. They may also need help from a caregiver in tilting and positioning of the mobility device.

Power Wheelchairs

Standard Power Wheelchairs

These power wheelchairs are self-propelled by an electric motor and operated by a joystick or any other control mechanism. They provide greater freedom and self-sufficiency for patients with weak upper limbs. It’s a top-notch option for individuals who cannot self-propel a manual wheelchair.

Standard wheelchairs are commonly equipped with adjustable seating systems, programmable controls, and other options to address individual requirements. They are appropriate for both indoor and outdoor use. However, the device’s travel range is limited by the battery’s power supply.

All-Terrain Power Wheelchairs

All-terrain power wheelchairs are used for outdoor activities and off-road surfaces. They have bigger wheels and shock absorbers. Such a medical aid comes with strong motors. They can traverse rough terrains, lawns, sand, and even slightly steep slopes.

These wheeling chairs provide more mobility and self-sufficiency for people who want to partake in outdoor activities. They will serve you well in case of living in regions with difficult terrains. But all-terrain chairs are often bigger, heavier, and costlier than standard power wheelchairs.

Pediatric Power Wheelchairs

Power mobility devices designed for children with mobility issues are known as pediatric power wheelchairs. These are height-adjustable wheelchairs with appropriate controls and seating systems appropriate for the child’s age. They normally boast safety measures such as seat belts and anti-tipping systems.

Power wheelchairs help children with mobility impairment to be independent and socially included. Kids can join other children in activities and play. A pediatric power wheelchair comes in different sizes and can be seamlessly adapted to fit the specific requirements of the little youngster.

Standing Power Wheelchairs

Standing power wheelchairs are the most versatile type. They can easily go between sitting and standing positions. This feature is quite useful for people who have some medical problems, for example, increased blood circulation, pressure reduction, and performing work at the eye level.

These electric wheelchairs usually come equipped with a specific lifting system. You can adjust the positioning of the seating and standing position at any time. Although they offer extra features, such power chairs are usually expensive and may come with restrictions on weight and dimensions.

Specialty Wheelchairs

Sports Wheelchairs

These are wheelchairs that are specifically manufactured for sports activities and games. They have lightweight structures, adjustable chairs, and unique wheels for enhanced mobility and speed. There are special sports wheelchairs for different sports like basketball, tennis, racing, and many others.

These wheelchairs are designed to improve an athlete’s performance in terms of speed, flexibility, and dexterity during competition. But they are not intended for day-to-day use or for any kind of transportation.

Beach/All-Terrain Wheelchairs

Beach/all-terrain wheelchairs are intended for outdoor use and rough terrains. They have extra-large, wide-set wheels or caterpillar treads. The following features ensure travel on soft ground such as sand, small stones or mud without sinking.

These wheelchairs enable people with mobility limitations to engage in outdoor activities and navigate through different terrains. They can be rented at beaches, parks, and other recreational areas for outdoor activities.

Bariatric Wheelchairs

Obesity wheelchairs are generally used by people who need a medical device that can support more weight. Such wheelchairs come with stronger frames and broader seats. A bariatric chair features a higher maximum carrying capacity that ranges from 350 to 700 pounds or even more.

Bariatric wheelchairs are a safe and comfortable seating solution for users who may not fit into standard wheelchairs. They come in both manual and power types. Most of them can be easily modified to meet specific needs.

Factors to Consider When Searching for a New Wheelchair

Mobility Needs

Pick a mobility device depending on your mobility requirements and the terrain that you often cover. Also, consider additional features like indoor or outdoor use as well as an average distance you usually need to cover.

Weight and Size Requirements

The weight and size of the wheelchair user should also be taken into consideration. The type of wheeling chair you choose must be able to support your body size and weight. Consult with a healthcare professional to find out the correct weight capacity and dimensions.

Indoor vs Outdoor Use

If you plan to use the chair mostly indoors, then a standard manual or power wheelchair is good to go. But if you opt for frequent outings or traveling, then look for a wheelchair that features large wheels, a suspension system, and all-terrain capabilities.

Customization Options

Some of the wheelchairs that are available in the market come with features that can be adjusted depending on the user’s requirements. These may include adjustable seating systems and specialized controls. The same goes for various accessories like cup holders, oxygen tank holders, or storage bags.

Budget Considerations

Prices for wheelchairs may differ solidly. Standard manual wheelchairs can cost a couple of hundred dollars, while complex power wheelchairs with additional functions can cost several thousand dollars. Make sure that your budget allows for the model you pick and if there are options for financing or insurance coverage.


Selecting the appropriate wheelchair is usually a personal decision that depends on the user’s requirements and daily activities. Knowing the types of wheelchairs and their characteristics can help make a decision in favor of mobility and independence.

However, you should speak to a doctor first, particularly an occupational therapist or a physical therapist. They will advise you on the best options according to your medical needs. Using the right wheeling chair, it becomes easier to maneuver through your daily activities with more self-confidence.